Turning off the gas and switching to induction: What you need to know

Induction cookers are becoming more popular, but the switch from gas is not always straightforward.

Induction cookers are becoming more popular, but the switch from gas is not always straightforward. Photo: Getty

Gas stoves are getting a bad rap after decades of good press, with many citing health concerns as a key reason for switching to electric or induction cooking.

However, there are still some unique benefits to using a gas stove, as there are for induction or electric cooking. And all three have their drawbacks.

As with any other purchase, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons and understanding the differences when considering a switch.

Chris Barnes is CHOICE’s household-product category manager and he told The New Daily he has a gas stove in his own kitchen – but not by choice. He said he’d prefer an induction cooktop, having used one previously.

One key reason for many cooks choosing gas over electric has been its more instant control of heat.

“But induction now does that and it actually does it better, and it does it much more safely as well,” Mr Barnes said.

“I definitely prefer cooking on induction than I do cooking on gas.”

What are the differences?

All essentially do the same thing: cook your food. But there are some key differences.

Gas stoves use an open flame to heat up cookware. Pots and pans sit on iron trivets away from the flame, and gas delivers the heat.

Electric stoves, or ceramic stoves, have a flat surface and look similar to induction cooktops. They heat up pots and pans with hidden coiled metal elements under a glass surface.

Energy Australia says induction cooktops produce an electromagnetic field on the glass surface, which then heats up the pot or pan.

The stove itself does not get hot because no heat is conducted between the cooktop and the cookware – the electro-magnetism heats the cookware directly,” Energy Australia said. 

“This makes induction cooktops more efficient than traditional cooktops, which rely on the transfer of heat from one object to another (a process that leads to some wasted energy).”

What are the pros and cons?

With gas stoves, it can be easy to control the heat as the flame serves as a visual guide.

CHOICE notes that many gas stoves are specially designed for woks, which is handy if you cook plenty of stir-fries.

On the downside, gas stoves can be a pain to clean, as parts need to be removed and, given there’s an open flame, they can also be a safety hazard.

Gas flames also release small amounts of nitrogen dioxide, which can exacerbate some health conditions, including asthma.

Mr Barnes said the health concerns associated with gas in general should not be overlooked.

“When you’re burning gas inside the home, it’s producing byproducts – which include various gases like nitrogen dioxide, or carbon monoxide. But in particular, a lot of fine particulate pollution – and that gets into the indoor air in your home and it’s really just not good for you,” he said.

CHOICE said electric stoves were easy to clean given their flat surfaces. They’re also particularly good at cooking foods at a low temperature.

However, spills do need to be cleaned up relatively quickly to prevent food from sticking to the surface.

Electric stovetops can be slower to respond to temperature changes and can hold heat even after they are turned off, though many do come with warnings.

Induction cooktops are considered the fastest method of cooking and can be controlled as easily as a gas stove.

Because food cooks through the heat from the cookware, the actual stove doesn’t get hot. They are also easy to clean, given their sleek design.

However, induction cooktops are generally more expensive than other options. In CHOICE’s most recent study, they ranged from $515 to $6349.

In addition, cookware must have a magnetic base, meaning the big switch might also require replacing some pots and pans – further adding to costs.

Gas market

Health risks associated with gas stoves shouldn’t be ignored, one expert says. Photo: Getty

Given even some professional chefs and many home cooks are now leaning towards induction, it’s no wonder more people are contemplating the same.

Mr Barnes said induction cooktops had been around for a while, and had recently become more affordable. But he warned against switching just to save money.

“The sort of dollars, if you’re looking at for most people in their home, are not going to add up,” he said.

“It’s more about what’s safer. And what’s actually more effective for cooking.”

Is induction worth the cost?

Induction stoves need professional installation, while many homes will also need an electrician. Induction cooktops need to be on their own circuit, generally with a higher amperage, Mr Barnes said.

“In some homes, that might turn out to be a problem. There might not be capacity on the switchboard,” he said.

“If you can, get your electrician in [to check and advise], in advance.”

He also said unless homeowners were going completely gas free, or if the stove was their only gas appliance, the change was unlikely to make a major difference to their quarterly bill.

Another option is a portable induction element that can be plugged in at the wall. Mr Barnes said these can sit on top of an electric or gas stove to save space, and were less permanent solutions. They’re also cheaper – starting as low as $50.

How much does it cost to switch?

Installing an induction stove can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the model and the home’s electrical requirements.

However, the cost doesn’t stop with appliance, installation and any potential electrical work.

Induction cooktops work only with certain pots and pans. They include cast iron, steel, some enamelled steel, and stainless-steel pots and pans with an iron base or core. Glass, aluminium and copper cookware generally won’t work.

Mr Barnes suggested using a magnet to test the compatibility.

Topics: Food, Home
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